Saturday, June 27, 2009

Six Degrees of Separation From Schaefer Stadium

Count me as extremely skeptical of the chaos theory proposition that Michael Jackson is responsible for Bob Kraft, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and three Super Bowl trophies for the New England Patriots. It gives the Sullivan family either far too much or too little credit for their role in the franchise's history, although I'm not sure which.

According to the theory, if Chuck Sullivan hadn't become involved in the promotion of the Jacksons 1984 Victory Tour, and hadn't been taken to the cleaners by Don King in said deal, then the Pats wouldn't have gone bust and the Sullivans wouldn't have been forced to sell to Victor Kiam leading to the franchise's near-collapse, sale to James Orthwein, arrival of Bill Parcells, ascension of Kraft, etc. I disagree. Don't mistake the investment for the investor.

I covered the Pats' financial collapse of the late '80s. That assignment was pretty much why I was hired by the Herald. It was a story that had its moments, such as walking through the floor of the O'Neill Building devoted to U.S. bankruptcy court and seeing not one, but three rooms dedicated to proceedings involving your New England Patriots, or getting the runaround from Donald Trump's office for days on end. (That was when Trump actually was a businessman., not a reality television character businessman. Today, he'd come to my house to discuss a pro football deal).

But I'm wandering. The point of this post is to state that if the Sullivans hadn't taken a total bath on Michael Jackson, they would have done so in some other disastrous deal, a proposed corner in pork bellies, air rights over the Mass Pike. God help us, they might have bought the Herald.

I liked the Sullivans. They were not completely horrible at running a pro football team, either. But the family never had the capital to own an NFL franchise, and their need for said capital meant they were always on the lookout for an opportunity to make a score. Add to that a complete incapacity for high finance, and balance sheet catastrophe was inevitable. The only question was what would be the source of their doom.

That said source turned out to be Michael Jackson merely reflects the real ability of Billy Sullivan and his clan. They had a gift for the bizarre. Speaking as a sportswriter, I bless them for it.


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